Far-right activist Ammon Bundy announces run for Idaho governor

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<span>Photograph: Darin Oswald/AP</span>
Photograph: Darin Oswald/AP

The far-right anti-government activist and militia figure Ammon Bundy has announced a bid to be governor of Idaho governor in a further sign of the rightward trend of politics in the rural and Republican-dominated state.

The Stetson-wearing activist said he wants to defend Idaho from “Joe Biden and those in the Deep State that control him” because they “are going to try to take away our gun rights, freedom of religion, parental rights, and more and further violate the constitution in unimaginable ways even more than they’ve already done.”

There is little evidence to back up Bundy’s sentiments which reflect paranoid ideas common on the US far right. Idaho, which has long had a tradition of anti-government and pro-militia sentiment, is seen as being one of the most rightwing Republican states in the US, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen rightwing groups fight health measures like wearing masks.

Bundy and his family gained fame in 2014, when they engaged in an armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents at their Bunkerville, Nevada, ranch amid a dispute over his father Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees.

Ammon, brother Ryan and Cliven Bundy were indicted and served jail time, but they later acquitted.

He gained further recognition in 2016 over a protest at the the Malheur national wildlife refuge – part of a campaign to force the federal government to turn public land over to states.

Bundy was arrested twice last year at Idaho’s state capitol after leading a march to protest Idaho’s stay-at-home order and later charged with criminal trespass for disrupting a meeting of the state legislature. In April this year he was arrested again over a similar encounter. He has pleaded not guilty in one case and has not yet entered a plea in the second.

Bundy filed documents last month indicating plans to run. He will probably face competition. The current Idaho governor, Brad Little, Lt Governor Janice McGeachin and four other Republicans Jeff Cotton, Edward Humphreys, Lisa Marie and Cody Usabel have also filed papers.

But the Idaho Republican party chairman, Tom Luna, said this month that Bundy is not welcome among GOP ranks, KTVB reported, pointing to Bundy’s failure to register as a Republican before at the time he filed initial campaign paperwork.

“Furthermore, we do not support his antics or his chaotic political theater,” Luna said. “That is not the Idaho Republican party, and we will not turn a blind eye to his behaviors.”

In his campaign launch video, Bundy drew attention to his long battle with the federal government over the use of government land, which make up about two-thirds of the state. His platform is to eliminate property and income taxes, federal control over land and public health mandates.

In the campaign-launch video, Bundy also referred to his repeated conflicts with the government.

“We cannot afford to have state leadership that lets the federal government bully us, or walk all over us. And it’s an unfair fight, when the federal government unlawfully attacks the people, believe me, I know as my family and I experienced this first-hand, when we were unlawfully attacked by federal officials at our family ranch in Nevada in 2014,” Bundy said.

“But we did not back down, and thankfully, like-minded patriots across the country stood with us, as we fought back against federal tyranny to protect our land and our rights.”

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